Tons of upsets, wild finishes and big quarterback play last week. Can Derek Carr do it again? Let’s get into Week 9’s games.
Last week: 5-7-1
Overall record: 65-53-2
Logan BowlesLogan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Week 9 Cheat Sheet trivia question
Jordan Howard’s Monday night 69-yard run was the longest by a Chicago Bear since which running back ripped off a 72-yarder in 2009? (Answer below the picks.)
Associated PressNam Y. Huh
Thursday night: Falcons at Buccaneers
Some players want a nice 10-day break to rest, recover and respond after a heartbreaking loss. Not Jameis Winston. Speaking with reporters this week, the second-year quarterback said, “We’ve got a quick turnaround, and that’s lucky for us.” You need to have a short memory in this league, and Winston has it. Credited often for throwing the tough pass immediately after throwing an interception or being sacked, he’s the type of kid who’ll respond well to injuries to just about every playmaker around him not named Mike Evans. Here’s your Thursday night upset special. The Falcons has a huge offense, but for whatever reason the Bucs have their number. Revenge game for Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith. They’ll find a way.
The pick: Buccaneers 34, Falcons 24
Thearon W. HendersonGetty Images
Sunday: Steelers at Ravens
This game might not have the same sizzle as it used to, but it’s still one of the best rivalries in the game. The Ravens have lost four straight games, and injuries have been the prime culprit. Well, no excuse Sunday. Baltimore is supposed to have Steve Smith, Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Devin Hester all back in the lineup. Though it may feel like a lost season in Baltimore, the Ravens are a win away from being 4-4 and tied for first place in the division.
The pick: Ravens 23, Steelers 17
Sunday: Cowboys at Browns
I’ll be on the sideline for NFL on FOX for this one and am curious to see how the Cowboys respond to their big Sunday night win over Philly. Is this a classic letdown game for a team that is overlooking its struggling opponent? Or is this Cowboys team just too young and too competitive to even know to overlook anyone? I’ll go with the latter. Dallas can make up for any defensive shortcomings, injuries to the defensive backfield or road woes with that running game. Expect Zeke Elliott to get going early and often and for this one to be lower scoring than you’d envision.
The pick: Cowboys 20, Browns 16
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: Jaguars at Chiefs
The most underappreciated team in the NFL is the Kansas City Chiefs. They’ve won 15 of their past 17 regular-season games, they win despite injuries to stars Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston and quarterback Alex Smith, and they can get it done in Arrowhead or on the road. They won’t lose to a Jags team that is regressing week after week. What’s happened to Blake Bortles? Weird stuff down in Jacksonville this season.
The pick: Chiefs 33, Jaguars 23
Sunday: Jets at Dolphins
I’d keep an eye on the quietly surging Dolphins. Their offensive line is made of former, current and potentially future All-Pros, their running back is fresh off two 200-yard yard rushing days, and their schedule is by no means a gauntlet the next few weeks. Every season a team goes on a little second-half run. The Dolphins, to me, are that team. Tough one, here, with a Jets team figuring out ways to win. But I like Miami at home.
The pick: Dolphins 24, Jets 20
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday: Lions at Vikings
The Vikings have hit a bit of a bump in the road, and I’m honestly not sure it’s fixable. The offensive line woes are very real, and there just isn’t a guy on the street who is an upgrade from what they’re trotting out there. Minnesota’s running backs are averaging less than 3 yards per carry, and the defense — something that has carried the team all season long — can’t be asked to suffocate every NFL offense and score points each week. I have real concerns about Minnesota. And I think a loss to the Lions on Sunday is in the cards.
The pick: Lions 24, Vikings 16
Associated PressCharles Rex Arbogast
The pick: Lions 24, Vikings 16
The Eagles need to let Carson Wentz loose! I’m watching this guy — who has all the traits, all the tools — and every pass he seems to throw is a screen or a short passing route. Philly’s receivers aren’t catching everything, and the running game has regressed a bit since its lights-out start. I think the Giants, coming off a long bye week, could protect their house in this NFC East clash. Give me New York, behind a healthy performance from a healthy Odell Beckham.
The pick: Giants 31, Eagles 23
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: Panthers at Rams
The Panthers’ offensive line appeared much improved in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, with Cam Newton getting some rare time to breathe in the pocket and the running game finding some success with Jonathan Stewart toting the rock. But Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald are no walk in the park, and the Rams haven’t played in the Los Angeles Coliseum in close to a month. End of the day (I love when people use that term), I just don’t see Newton coming up short in a Hollywood premier. His comments were heard around the league, and though some scoffed the officials will no doubt take note. I’d expect Newton to have another big day, and I’m taking the Panthers in a close one. The Jared Goff Era starts … next week.
The pick: Panthers 28, Rams 17
Sunday: Saints at 49ers
The Saints are quietly coming along. The NFC South is still within reach, and the New Orleans defense is getting better each week. More than anything, the running game is developing. Tim Hightower is like an old recipe from yesteryear. Just when you think you’ve seen the last of him, he shows up and delivers. He had a 100-yard day against Seattle and should do the same against an inferior San Francisco team.
The pick: Saints 34, 49ers 20
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
Sunday: Colts at Packers
Aaron Rodgers had his best performance of the season in a loss last week in Atlanta. No Ty Montgomery, no Jared Cook, no Eddie Lacy, no Randall Cobb, and yet Rodgers looked as dialed in as he has all season. I think the Lambeau Field air will be just what he needs, and the Colts defense is a nice cherry on top. The Packers may not be built to win the chip this year — too many injuries, too much youth — but they’re still a beast at home. Give me Green Bay.
The pick: Packers 27, Colts 23
Associated PressDavid Goldman
Sunday: Titans at Chargers
Tennessee is a throwback team with throwback coaching, throwback coordinators and a throwback style of attack. It all starts up front, and the Titans’ offensive line is playing as well as any in the league. If DeMarco Murray’s toe is healed, it’s this style that can win games in December and January. The defense — Dick Lebeau’s brainchild — is getting the job done, too. Nobody’s talking about the Titans, but they’re 4-4 and already have more wins than they had all last year. I like them to notch another Sunday.
The pick: Titans 33, Chargers 28
USA TODAY SportsJim Brown
Sunday night: Broncos at Raiders
Well, here’s your litmus test game, Raiders fans. What are these guys? Great on the road. 5-0. But bad at home? 1-2. Awesome on offense but spotty on defense? Fun and gutsy with fourth-and-short calls to go for it, yes. But historically undisciplined with 23 penalties last weekend. We’ll know what they are when they play the big dogs. At home. On Sunday night. With a country watching. I like ’em. Hello, 7-2.
The pick: Raiders 19, Broncos 17
Monday night: Bills at Seahawks
Josh Norman and Cam Newton weren’t the only players unhappy with the officiating last weekend. "The calls -- or the lack thereof -- were pretty egregious," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said on Monday. "It's just tough with the penalties. It's tough when you play a team that's averaging seven, eight penalties a game, and they get called for one [actually two] -- an obvious false start in the fourth quarter, which the refs really didn't want to call in the first place." Coming off that loss to New Orleans, the 12’s will have that stadium rocking in what ends up becoming Percy Harvin’s return to Seattle. The Bills defense — for the second straight year — has just too many problems. It’s inexcusable to give up a deep bomb on third-and-13, as they did last week to Tom Brady. Stuff like that happens every week. The stadium noise in Seattle won’t help their cause.
The pick: Seahawks 27, Bills 13
Week 9 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Former Bears running back Kahlil Bell had a 72-yard run on November 22, 2009, against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.